In Part 1, I wrote about having chunks of productive time during your workday. And to show that you don’t need to be working for a full 8 hours, in Part 2, I wrote about how to maximize your zone times. But life isn’t always fair and sometimes you have to get work done for some annoying client or your boss at your lowest points of the day.


Sometimes your work might require you to do things you don’t like. Well, not sometimes. Most of the time. This is when changing your zone becomes very handy. This presupposes that you’ve established the discipline you need to get yourself into a working zone, which means you have mastered your craft. Because you have mastered it, you can rein it in and control it. It’s not going to be easy, but it can be done.

The mind is powerful. We’ve all heard this before. Guess what, our zones are what we tell ourselves. You’re a morning person? That’s because you tell yourself that. So if you tell yourself you’re an afternoon person, you can become one. But it’s not that easy. It’s not easy fooling ourselves to do something we don’t want to do.

Fooling yourself #1: Try applying the same habits you use during your zone times to your off zone times. This will condition you to feel as if your non-zone time is just like the zone time. Remove your network connection, close your instant messenger, hide your phone, put on your music, close your doors. Do whatever it is that you do during your most productive hours on your non-productive hours. That will make them more similar to each other.

Clean everything up!

Fooling yourself #2: Give yourself a deadline within your non-zone time. A friend of mine calls this external motivation (vs internal motivation). I just call it getting it done. At the end of the day, you have to come up with something. As I mentioned in a previous article on shipping, you must launch it when the deadline is there, finished or not. I tend to be a bit grumpy when working on something, to keep myself from unnecessary things while I’m focusing.

Just. Get. It. Done.

Fooling yourself #3: Rationalize against working in your zone time. In my case, why is it best for me to work in the afternoon (my downtime is from 2-5 pm) versus working in the morning? I can say that in the afternoon, I can avoid taking calls from others, or because I don’t regularly get in at 8 am. Reason with yourself. Argue if you have to.

You can convince yourself to think anything.

Keep at it until you’ve learned to shift your work time. The whole point of this is to grasp your craft, wrestle with it, and show it who its master is. Also, when you’ve mastered this, who wouldn’t want to finish work in 2-3 hours? This only shows how smartly one works, which is always appreciated. (If your boss doesn’t like that, leave that job now. That’s old school and will kill you.) My goal in being productive is to finish work as fast as I can so I can have more time to get back to reading that book I was reading to work. Isn’t that a good reason to work smart?

This whole process should take about a month or so, if you’re really headstrong. I’ve found my zone, but I’m still wrestling with my craft. It’s a tough battle to win, but there’s many experience points to be gained–they may be enough to give you enough levels for that new job class.

The next step is shinier!